Monday, June 08, 2009

Sex Without Intimacy: No Dating, No Relationships : NPR

The hookup — that meeting and mating ritual that started among high school and college students — is becoming a trend among young people who have entered the workaday world. For the many who are delaying the responsibilities of marriage and child-rearing, hooking up has virtually replaced dating.

It is a major shift in the culture over the past few decades, says Kathleen Bogle, a professor of sociology and criminal justice at La Salle University.

Young people during one of the most sexually active periods of their lives aren't necessarily looking for a mate. What used to be a mate-seeking ritual has shifted to hookups: sexual encounters with no strings attached.

"The idea used to be you are going to date someone that is going to lead to something sexual happening," Bogle says. "In the hookup era, something sexual happens, even though it may be less than sexual intercourse, that may or may not ever lead to dating."

Young people from high school on are so preoccupied with friends, getting an education and establishing themselves, they don't make time for relationships.

New Goal: Fun, Not Marriage

"Going out on a date is a sort of ironic, obsolete type of thing," says 25-year-old Elizabeth Welsh, who graduated from college in 2005 and now lives in Boston. She says that among her friends, dating is a joke. "Going out on a date to dinner and a movie? It's so cliche — isn't that funny?"

It seems it's far easier to have casual sexual encounters or hookups, though several national surveys of college students found a stalwart 28 percent who remain virgins. The term "hookup" is so vague, however, it might well encompass someone's idea of virginity — it involves anything from kissing to fooling around, oral sex and sexual intercourse.

"For me, it's been anytime that I was attracted to a guy and we spent the night together," Welsh says. "It has been sex; it has just been some sort of light making out. That's the beautiful thing about the phrase. Whatever happened is hooking up."

Bogle interviewed college students on a small and a large campus, as well as recent college graduates, to find out what was going on. The hooking-up phenomena has been traced back to the 1960s and the 1970s, when male and female students were thrown together in apartment-style dormitories, and there was a revolt against strict rules on having a member of the opposite sex in your dorm, lights out and curfews.

"What you see on college campuses now, even in some cases Catholic campuses, is that young men and women have unrestricted access to each other," Bogle says. Throw in the heavy drinking that occurs on most campuses, and there are no inhibitions to stand in the way of a hookup.

The alumni Bogle spoke with were less into hooking up after leaving college, but she says that's changing. It is catching on among young working adults, mainly because of the Internet and social networks.


Sex Without Intimacy: No Dating, No Relationships : NPR
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